Written by Solaade Ayo-Aderele
Mention the phrase 'blood pressure,' and the average adult is likely to stand still. For all reasons, issues relating to blood pressure readily arrest attention because it's one aspect of personal health that determines whether or not you stay alive - and in sound health.
Physicians say the normal blood pressure is below 120/80mmhg (millimetres of mercury). Pre-hypertension is diagnosed between 120/80-139/89; Stage 1 hypertension is between 140/90-159/99; and Stage 2 hypertension is a blood pressure above 160/100, hence the need to monitor your blood pressure religiously once you hit age 40.
Blood pressure and health
Cardiologists say about one in three adults has high blood pressure. And, as scary as it is, they warn that the condition usually presents with no signs or symptoms. As such, you may be walking around blissfully unaware that your days are numbered because of uncontrolled high blood pressure!
Consultant Cardiologist, Dr. Peter Olumide, warns,"You can have hypertension for years without knowing it. During this time, the high blood pressure can damage your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other organs in your body."
Knowing your blood pressure numbers is important, Olumide counsels; even when you're feeling fine. "If your blood pressure is normal, you can work with your physician to keep it that way. On the other hand, if your blood pressure is too high, treatment may help prevent damage to your body's organs," he says.
The age, sex factors
Physicians warn that blood pressure tends to rise with age. However, they add, following a healthy lifestyle helps some people to delay or prevent rise in blood pressure altogether.
"People who have high blood pressure can take steps to control it and reduce their risk for related health problems. Key steps include following a healthy lifestyle, having regular medical check-up, and following your treatment plan," General Practitioner, Dr. Folabi Awolaye, counsels.
Good life, good BP
Of course, those whose blood pressures are high are advised to keep in constant touch with their physicians, just as they are also counselled to imbibe healthy dietary habits and lifestyle that will not only return their blood pressure to normal, but also keep it at healthy level.
So, what is the natural way to realise a healthy blood pressure level? Here...
Olumide says there's no arguing the fact that unwieldy weight poses health risks any day. He warns that the heavier you are on the scale, the more likely is your risk of high blood pressure; and that by losing weight, you are doing your blood pressure a world of good!
He also reveals that if you've been placed on some blood-pressure medications, losing weight would make the drugs more effective.
Lower your salt intake
Olumide notes that people with family history of high blood pressure could have blood pressure that is particularly salt sensitive. Nutritionists corroborate this, saying since there is no way to determine if an individual is sodium sensitive, it is advisable for all of us to lower our sodium (salt) intake.
A nutritionist, Mrs. Tolu Afuwape, says the problem is with the "hidden salts" rather than with using a salt shaker.
"When you habitually eat processed or canned foods, you unwittingly consume more than the recommended daily salt intake, because processed foods such as bacon, salami, cured meat, barbecued meat, etc.; or canned foods of all categories, contain added salts that are meant to preserve them from going bad.
"Loading yourself with such foods will ruin your health in no time; so, avoid them like the plague that they are," Afuwape advises.
Generally, tea is good for the body; but when it comes to lowering high blood pressure over a period of time and keeping it at healthy level, nutritionists recommend hibiscus tea.
For instance, researchers from Tufts University say "the phytochemicals in hibiscus are probably responsible for the large reduction in high blood pressure when taken as tea."
They are of the view that many herbal teas contain hibiscus and should therefore be adopted as healthy drinks because they are known to reduce blood pressure in pre- and mildly hypertensive adults.
Again, a Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medical, Dr. Linda Van Horn, says consuming potassium-rich fruits such as beans, baked potato, green leafy vegetables, plain yoghurt, salmon fish, avocados, bananas, cashews, walnuts, coconut water, watermelon seeds, home-made orange juice, sweet potato, fresh tomatoes, etc., will boost your blood pressure-lowering efforts.
Go easy on booze
While the debates have continued unabated about the pros and cons of alcohol use, Awolaye is categorical in warning that alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. "It can also reduce the effectiveness of high blood pressure medications you may be using," he notes.
His advice? "As much as possible, avoid alcohol; the disadvantages outweigh whatever advantages you may be told it has."
Reduce your stress level
Increased stress can mean increased blood pressure, at least temporarily. If you're at risk for high blood pressure due to being overstressed, you'll want to pay particular attention to lowering your stress.
Many activities can help you stay calmer in the face of daily life stressors. Many of the same healthy actions that are good for your blood pressure - like eating right and exercising - can also be stress preventers.
In addition to exercise, other forms of relaxation like meditation or deep breathing can also be helpful, physicians say.